Central Park Caterpillar
Photo by M. Winn
Found this tiny caterpillar [magnified in the photo shown above] last Wednesday, took it home in a little container and finally identified it with the help of my absolutely favorite Field Guide, David Wagner's Caterpillars of Eastern North America.
It is a Forest Tent Caterpillar, [Malacosoma disstria] something of a woodland pest though not as destructive as the closely related Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Nevertheless I did not release the caterpillar back in the park.
David Wagner writes: "Beautiful bluish caterpillar with white 'footprints' that lead towards head." The word "footprints" was the big clue for identification. That's exactly what those white splotches on its back look like.